CORTLAND, Ohio – An updated strategic plan, capital improvements and greater collaboration with neighboring communities are among the items on the city of Cortland’s agenda, Mayor Deidre Petrosky says.
Petrosky, who took office about 18 months ago, praises the work her predecessors did. Cortland is a “beautiful city” that is fiscally responsible, she says.
Former Mayor Curt Moll undertook the last strategic plan in the early 2000s. So now is the time “to do a plan for the next 15 years or so,” she says.
The process began last year but was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It resumed this year with a community survey that closed May 31.
Nearly 700 respondents completed the survey, she says. While results are still being evaluated, city officials have identified several areas they plan to address: city services and infrastructure, zoning, attracting businesses and marketing.
The goal is to have the strategic plan completed by the end of the year, with objectives assigned to various committees, each of which will have at least one council member.
“We need to make it easy for new business to call Cortland their home,” says Councilman Jim Bradley. “As a city, we need to make information about Cortland and what we can offer businesses very simple to locate and formatted in a way that is easy to use.”
“I’d love to see the city, business owners and landlords work together to help attract new businesses, especially businesses that will enhance life for our residents as well as visitors,” says Councilwoman Kathy Fleischer
Cortland has “fantastic” small businesses, among them retail establishments and restaurants, she adds.
“The mayor and I have talked and we’d like to improve communication between the city and business owners,” Fleischer says.
“Residents would like to see more community events. And we want to work with business owners to educate them on grants and programs that will help them grow.”
Among the initiatives under discussion are quarterly meetings with the business community.
Bradley has proposed a program he calls “Business Simplified,” a portal to help new businesses by providing documents and instructions for starting a new business in the city. “This will streamline the learning process for the user and they will quickly find the documents they need and city codes specific to business,” he says.
Bradley also is proposing what he calls a “code team” composed of representatives of various city departments, including police, fire, planning and zoning, to meet with business owners at one time, rather than separately, and provide the information that the business owner needs.
From a zoning perspective, the city is looking at how to preserve its historic buildings. Cortland has no properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places but does have sites that are important to the history of the city.
The last attempt to establish a historic district was “not well received,” with an approach toward implementing “restrictive guidelines” for historic properties, Mayor Petrosky says.
This time, the city may look at it from a recognition standpoint, possibly identifying historic properties with plaques and establishing walking tours.
Another possibility is setting a “minimum standard” for the appearance of commercial properties, similar to the city’s residential exterior property maintenance, Petrosky continues. Also being considered is defining the commercial districts within the city so they don’t expand to the detriment of historic houses in the neighborhoods.
“It would be nice if vacant buildings were kept up and hopefully new businesses come in,” says Karen Potts, owner of Jo-Kar’s Grooming, 231 W. Main St.
West Main Street has changed “immensely” over the years, Potts says. Businesses have come and gone but the ones there tend to draw on each other’s customers.
“One business comes in and adds to other businesses,” she says.
Don Barzak, owner of Barzak Agency, 205 W. Main St., sees the desire to revitalize the downtown district as the driving force behind the strategic plan.
“The biggest thing is to see what’s going to be beneficial to not just business but traffic patterns and so forth,” he says.
Barzak conditionally supports the idea of establishing guidelines to maintain commercial properties. “That’s good if they get some incentive to the business. There’s got to be incentive,” he says.
He wants the city to keep up with maintaining infrastructure, pointing to the condition of the sidewalk in front of his building. And he doesn’t want city workers to pile up snow to create “ice heaps” that business owners have to remove because they are required to keep sidewalks clear.
Repurposing downtown buildings is essential, Petrosky says. The mayor would like to bring boutique-type shops to the downtown as well as a coffee shop and a winery.
During the 1980s, Cortland had several specialty shops that drew customers not only from Trumbull County but also from Greater Cleveland, according to Fleischer.
“I’d love to see the city, business owners and landlords work together to help attract new businesses, specifically businesses that will enhance life for our residents, as well as visitors,” the councilwoman says.
One development approach the city is looking at involves discussions with the neighboring communities around Mosquito Lake to market its 44410 ZIP code area regionally. People visiting the lake don’t pay attention to the political borders of the subdivisions, Fleischer says.
“That’s an important attraction and all the lake communities could benefit from advertising together,” Petrosky agrees. Because of its size, Cortland can take the lead in that effort.
Fleischer recently completed a three-year term on the board of the Trumbull County Tourism Bureau. Lodging and event facilities at the state park would, she says, “do a lot” to improve the communities.
“Mosquito Lake is a huge draw for our area and I would like to see those visitors spending money in Cortland, Mecca, Bazetta, Johnson, Fowler and Greene,” she says. “We can really improve our quality of life by attracting more businesses and visitors to all of our communities by working with each other and with the tourism bureau in promoting the 44410.”
The lakeshore communities boast the Country Porch Winery in Bazetta and Greene Eagle Winery in Greene, as well as “fun little ice cream places such as Bacconi’s Lickety Split and Mecca Cones & Coneys,” Fleischer says.
Echoing Petrosky, she says visitors don’t see – or care about – township and city borders.
“They want to have an experience when they come here. And if they are camping at the lake in Bazetta, or having an event at the state park, we want to give them a reason to come and spend money in Cortland,” she says.
Pictured: Cortland Mayor Deidre Petrosky says her city is developing a new strategic plan.